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A.J. Pierzynski

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Anthony John "A.J." Pierzynski [Peer-zin-skee] (born December 30, 1976) is an American Major League Baseball catcher who has played for the Chicago White Sox since 2005. Pierzynski formerly played with the Minnesota Twins (1998-2003) and San Francisco Giants (2004). Pierzynski was also a wrestler for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.

Pierzynski had the longest streak of consecutive error-less games among active Major League catchers (150). A.J. made the 2002 American League All-Star Team as a reserve catcher while playing for the Minnesota Twins.

BiographyEdit

Anthony John Pierzynski was born December 30, 1976 in Bridgehampton, New York.[1] He attended Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Florida, where he won All-State honors in baseball. New York Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon was one of Pierzynski's high school teammates. He graduated high school in 1994 and also signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Tennessee.[1] AJ's rookie year in the MLB was 1998. He is currently married to Lisa Pierzynski. The couple has two children, Ava and Austin. AJ also has been given the nickname "The Polish Prince" this was given to him by his teammates. He is a large fan favorite by Sox fans due to his hard play and attitude.

Major League careerEdit

Pierzynski was drafted by the Minnesota Twins on June 2, 1994, out of high school.[2] After four years in the Twins organization, he was called up to the Major League team, and made his debut on September 9, 1998. He spent the next five seasons, through the 2003 season, with Minnesota, though he was not a regular starter until 2001. From 1998-2000, he appeared in just 49 games for the Twins. In the 2002 American League Division Series, Pierzynski hit an important home run in the ninth inning of the final game, in which the Twins clinched the series. In 2003, Pierzynski reached a .312 batting average, a career high that still stands.[3]

After the 2003 season, the Twins traded Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. He spent one season in San Francisco before being signed as a free agent by the Chicago White Sox on January 6, 2005.[2]

In 2006, Pierzynski was named one of the five American League players in the All-Star Final Vote. Soon afterwards the Chicago White Sox organization began an election campaign using the slogan "Punch A.J." Pierzynski received 3.6 million votes, the most votes in the American League, subsequently sending him to his second All-Star appearance.

The "Punch A.J." campaign was inspired by an incident on May 20, 2006 between Pierzynski and Chicago Cubs Catcher Michael Barrett. After a fly ball out,[citation needed] Pierzynski tagged up at 3rd and tried to score on the throw. After a collision at home, where Pierzynski knocked Barrett from his feet, Pierzynski slapped home plate with his hand. As he was getting up, he bumped into Barrett, and Barrett grabbed Pierzynski and punched him. A bench clearing brawl ensued, and Pierzynski, Barrett, White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson and Cubs first baseman John Mabry were ejected. [4]

Pierzynski and the Los Angeles Angels of AnaheimEdit

Pierzynski was involved in a controversial play that occurred on October 12, 2005 in Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series versus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. With the score tied and two out in the bottom of the ninth, with two strikes, Pierzynski swung at a low pitch from Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar and missed, for strike three. Josh Paul, the Angels catcher, rolled the ball to the mound and left the infield. Pierzynski realized strike three had been called, but he had not been called out and ran to first base in case the umpire had ruled that the Angels catcher had not legally caught the strike three pitch (see Uncaught third strike rule). Home plate umpire Doug Eddings indeed ruled that the ball hit the ground and then went into the catcher's glove,[5] meaning Pierzynski was safe at first. A pinch-runner, Pablo Ozuna, replaced Pierzynski and stole second base. Third baseman Joe Crede delivered a base hit three pitches later, scoring Ozuna for the winning run.

ControversiesEdit

During a 2004 Spring Training game, while catching, Pierzynski took a pitch to the groin and fell instantly to the ground in pain. Trainer Stan Conte rushed from the dugout to his side and immediately inquired, "how does it feel?" AJ responded directly by saying, "like this" and kneed Conte in the groin, dropping him to the ground.[6]

A May 2006 issue of Sports Illustrated featured a survey taken among 470 baseball players about what player they would most like to see get beaned. Pierzynski received eighteen percent of the vote, higher than any other player. Forty-two percent of those surveyed in the AL Central Division (which the White Sox play in) voted for Pierzynski.

On May 28, 2007, in a game versus the Minnesota Twins, Pierzynski twice ran down the first base line with his feet on the inside of the base, possibly nipping Twins first baseman Justin Morneau with his spikes. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was furious with the umpires, which resulted in a long tirade. However, he was not ejected. Pierzynski denied any attempt to step on Morneau.[7]

Professional wrestling Edit

On December 8, 2005, A.J. Pierzynski appeared on TNA iMPACT!, a professional wrestling television program aired by the professional wrestling promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Accompanied by White Sox strength trainer Dale Torborg, Pierzynski presented TNA wrestlers A.J. Styles, Chris Sabin and Sonjay Dutt with memorabilia from the 2005 World Series. At the ceremony, an incident was staged to include Pierzynski in a controversy with the wrestlers. Pierzynski then made his professional wrestling managerial debut at TNA Turning Point 2005 on December 11, 2005, accompanying Torborg, Sabin and Dutt to ringside for their match against the Diamonds in the Rough.

On October 10, 2006, Pierzynski appeared on ESPN2's Cold Pizza, wearing the X-Division Championship belt, and challenged WWE Champion John Cena, who was also a guest that morning, to a Title vs. Title steel cage match whenever Cena wanted to have it.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 "A.J. Pierzynski," Player File, Biography, Chicago White Sox, official website. Retrieved 18 May 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "A.J. Pierzynski," Transactions, Baseball-reference.com, Retrieved 18 May 2007.
  3. "A.J. Pierzynski," Career stats, Chicago White Sox, official website. Retrieved 18 May 2007.
  4. "[1]
  5. Umpires postgame interview. mlb.com. Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
  6. The Ten Most Hated Athletes. style.com. Retrieved on 2008-06-25.
  7. Twins upset about Pierzynski's play. mlb.com. Retrieved on 2007-05-29.

External linksEdit

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